El surLieberman wants U.S.-Mexico border security funding in supplemental

Published 14 April 2009

President Obama has submitted a $83.4 billion supplemental request to Congress which contains $66 million in additional aid to Mexico’s anti-drug efforts (Congress has already allocated about $700 million to Mexico — including $300 million in the recently enacted fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill); leading senators say more should be done to shore-up border protection, and they propose an amendment to the supplemental which would add $550 million in border security funding

President Barack Obama is seeking $66 million in assistance for Mexico — but no specific funding for U.S. border security efforts in the fiscal 2009 emergency supplemental funding request he submitted to Congress on Friday. Two senators say more is needed to help combat growing violence from Mexican drug cartels. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) said he will seek an amendment to the supplemental that would add $550 million in border security funding, the same provision he and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) added to the Senate version of the fiscal 2010 budget resolution this month (see 1 April 2009 HS Daily Wire).

CongressDaily’s Chris Strohm writes that the aid to Mexico sought by Obama, aiming to support counterdrug and crime-fighting efforts, is a small fraction of his $83.4 billion supplemental request, which is mainly intended to cover the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the text of the supplemental, Obama also would give the Defense Department authority to transfer funds in the supplemental to support U.S. border security efforts if needed, but the request does not put a price tag on how much spending might be warranted. “This request would also be available to fund counternarcotics and other operations on the United States-Mexico border, and allow the secretary of Defense to transfer funds from this account into other accounts for this purpose,” the text says.

The U.S. government has pledged to provide Mexico about $1 billion in assistance through the Merida Initiative, primarily through military and police equipment and training. Although the $66 million sought in the supplemental appears small, Congress has allocated about $700 million to Mexico — including $300 million in the recently enacted fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill, a congressional aide said. Administration officials say one of their top priorities is helping Mexico crack down on warring drug cartels and preventing violence in northern Mexico from spilling over in significant ways into the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and DHS secretary Janet Napolitano recently made trips to Mexico, and Obama is slated to travel to the country this week.

Lieberman and Collins say more funding is needed to support efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop weapons and cash from being smuggled to the drug cartels. Their amendment to the Senate’s fiscal 2010 budget resolution would provide $550 million for more federal agents and resources along the southwest border. That amendment passed the Senate by unanimous consent. “The Mexican drug cartels are presenting an unprecedented security threat to the United States,” Lieberman said. “Federal law enforcement officers and investigators are doing the best they can but they are understaffed and underequipped to take on the threat to American and Mexican security that the cartels pose.”

On 20 April, Lieberman’s committee plans to hold a field hearing in Phoenix on border violence.